Mavericks-Clippers Preview

With second place in the Western Conference close to being

secured, the Dallas Mavericks aren’t giving subpar teams much of a

chance to play the role of spoiler.

The Mavericks look to take advantage of another such contest and

hold on to their lead in a tight race as they visit the Los Angeles

Clippers on Monday night.

Dallas (53-27) has a one-game edge as it battles three teams for

the second seed in the conference. The Mavericks can finish no

worse than fourth.

“Obviously we would love to be the No. 2 seed (behind the

Lakers),” nine-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said. “We would like to

have home-court advantage as long as we can. But you look at the

bottom four teams, there are no easy matchups.”

The Mavericks, who have clinched the Southwest Division title,

conclude the season against potential first-round opponent San

Antonio on Wednesday night. First, they’ll try to win their sixth

straight against the lowly Clippers (28-52).

Dallas had little trouble against another inferior team Saturday

night, beating Sacramento 126-108.

The Mavs have won three straight by an average of 16.6 points, a

stretch that included two teams that have been eliminated from

playoff contention.

“Every one counts and we need them all,” coach Rick Carlisle

said. “Each game has a critical meaning for the playoffs. Our guys

are focused on that.”

Dallas has played well despite missing starting forward Shawn

Marion for the last three games because of a strained oblique

muscle. His status is uncertain.

Nowitzki has helped make up for Marion’s absence, scoring 39

points versus the Kings after posting 40 in an 83-77 win over

Portland on Friday night. He has made 68 straight free throws,

breaking his franchise record of 60.

Nowitzki and Jason Kidd have been providing veteran leadership,

helping Dallas avoid letdowns against opponents such as Sacramento.

Kidd is coming off his 105th triple-double, recording 11 points, 13

assists and 10 rebounds.

Kidd had 26 points in a 106-96 win over the Clippers on March 23

after being held to seven or fewer in his previous five games

against them.

Kidd may not have to match up with Los Angeles point guard Baron

Davis, who left early in the third quarter of a 107-104 victory

over Golden State on Saturday night due to a sprained right wrist.

His status is uncertain.

If Davis can’t play, Bobby Brown is a candidate to replace him

in the starting lineup.

Davis was having an outstanding game, finishing with 21 points.

Chris Kaman had 27 points and 10 rebounds as Los Angeles snapped a

seven-game slide.

“I hadn’t realized we were on a seven-game losing streak,

honestly,” Kaman said. “I hadn’t even thought about it. We’re just

trying to finish strong and think ahead a little bit to the summer.

I just keep looking ahead.”

Kaman has averaged 24.5 points in two games against the Mavs

this season.